Dental Hygiene: A Glimpse into Your Overall Health
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You're told to brush your teeth and to floss regularly, but apart from having shiny white teeth and not having bad breath, what's the reason for it? Well, for a start, slacking off on oral hygiene means that the bacteria that is normally kept at bay by toothpaste and floss has the chance to multiply to unhealthy levels, which may lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease. The bad news isn't limited to your mouth, though.
Oral health may affect, be affected by, or contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:
● Endocarditis: an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium), endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria from another part of your body – for example, your mouth – get into your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas of the heart.
● Cardiovascular disease: There exists some research that indicated that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke may be linked to inflammation and infections caused by oral bacteria.
● Pregnancy and birth: Periodontitis, which affects the tissues around the teeth, has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
● Diabetes: The body's resistance to infection is lowered by diabetes, which puts gums at risk. Those who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, research shows.
● HIV/AIDS: Those with HIV/AIDS are more likely to have oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, due to their weakened immune system.
● Osteoporosis: A condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle, osteoporosis may be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
● Alzheimer's Disease: Tooth loss before the age of 35 may be a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia.
Certain medications (such as decongestants, antidepressants, antihistamines, painkillers and diuretics) can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and aids in neutralizing acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, so it's important to let your dentist know if you're taking any of these medications or have had any changes in your overall health, so that they can adjust your treatments as necessary.
Protect your oral health!
In order to improve and protect your oral health, it's important to practice good oral hygiene every day. Here are some easy steps to take:
1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
2. Floss regularly – preferably daily.
3. Use an alcohol-free mouthwash. Alcohol dries out the mouth, allowing invasive bacteria to take over.
4. Eat a healthy diet and limit snacking between meals.
5. Drink lots of water.
6. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months. Sooner if the bristles are frayed. Worn toothbrush heads are less effective at removing food and plaque, which may lead to gum disease and gingivitis.
7. Schedule regular dental checkups, even if there's nothing “wrong”. Dentists can pick up on problems while they're still small – remember, prevention is better than a cure!